13 months
Oct 12:
a galaxy far far away
Oct 13:
any road, any load
Oct 15:
machetes & machineguns
Oct 16:
gentle giants up close
Oct 16:
local zero
Oct 18:
the low down
people & places
all galleries
next location

roadside market
Uganda; Oct 17, 2004

gorilla bonus tracks

Thanks for buying the limited release gorilla CD! Since you took advantage of our special online-only offer, we've included 3 additional bonus tracks!

now where'd that gorilla go? | tracking rules & details | handy gorilla facts

now where'd that gorilla go?

The gorillas do not stay in the same place. Each group moves daily, foraging for food and creating a new nest when they want to rest. So every morning before the hikers set out, an advance team of 2 trackers sets out to find each group of gorillas in order to make it easier (read “possible”) for the guide and hikers to find them later.

The trackers use a combination of learned skill and new technology. First, by using a previously taken GPS reading, they go to the spot where the gorillas were seen the prior day. At that point, they start tracking using visual clues (broken branches, droppings, etc.), following the gorilla’s path through the brush to their current location. Sometimes they go a short distance, sometimes a long distance. This year, they’ve had a very good success rate of getting the hikers to the gorillas, but some years it hasn’t been as good. We were fortunate to see gorillas on both our tracking days.

So we didn’t actually meet our trackers until we finally caught up to the gorillas. We heard our lead tracker’s voice on our guide’s walky-talky, but the first time we heard the tracker in person… well, we didn’t even realize it since it was only a birdcall to which our guide responded.

now where'd that gorilla go? | tracking rules & details | handy gorilla facts

tracking rules & details

We applied for and obtained gorilla permits for 2 days of gorilla tracking through the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (rightly named) is a World Heritage Foundation Site and is committed to the conservation and sustainability of the wildlife in the protected areas of Uganda. The UWA issues only 18 permits a day – 6 permits for each of the 3 groups of gorillas that they currently track. These permits are typically already allocated anywhere from 3 to 6 months in advance.

Because they are an endangered species, we were originally hesitant about paying for the right to tromp into their habitat and disturb them. We were very pleased to learn that the proceeds from the permits are primarily used to protect the gorillas and that the UWA is extremely diligent about facilitating an eco-friendly experience.

The UWA increases gorilla protection via the following rules/procedures:
-Only 18 permits are issued for each day
-Once a group reaches the gorillas, they are limited to viewing for one hour (this may be cut short by the guide if the gorillas seem agitated)
-Stay back at least 3 meters from the gorillas to avoid spread of germs (gorillas and humans share 97% of the same genes so it’s easy for them to catch our colds and diseases)
-Don’t go on the hike if you’re sick. In fact, this is the only reason that the UWA will refund your money for a permit. They don’t want to take a chance of you infecting the gorillas.
-Don’t make any loud noises or sudden movements around the gorillas
-Don’t eat near or around the gorillas
-Don’t use your camera’s flash around the gorillas

now where'd that gorilla go? | tracking rules & details | handy gorilla facts

handy gorilla facts

The Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is one of three subspecies of gorillas. All species of gorillas are endangered, but this subspecies especially is in trouble, numbering only about 700 (but fortunately this is up from about 600 or so a decade ago). There are none in captivity; they survive in only two places: the Virunga volcanic mountains bordering Congo, Rwanda and Uganda; and here, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda where 100% of the proceeds from guided treks goes towards gorilla conservation.

Males reach up to 450 pounds, while females may weigh up to 250 pounds. They are vegetarians, eating primarily leaves and shoots. Each social unit is lead by a large silverback male (called a silverback because of the gray/silver color on his back). The other members of the group may consist of one or more adult blackback males, several adult females, and several young.

Gorillas move around, usually daily, searching for food in their preferred habitat of thick jungle/rain forest. They also spend a fair amount of time sleeping, especially the silverback.

Males live up to 60 years and females live up to 50 years. Unfortunately, their reproduction is relatively slow, and they don’t begin producing young until they are about 10 years old and their gestation period is almost as long as humans. After giving birth, they will wait approximately 4 years until giving birth again.

Gorillas are gentle creatures, and only aggressive if threatened. Their only significant predator is man.

now where'd that gorilla go? | tracking rules & details | handy gorilla facts

© 2004-2012 susan & grace, all rights reserved